da Teacher Code
by John Pearson
Our most recent six weeks grading period ended last week, so I found myself once again looking at the list of codes that can be attached to each report card. When I was in school, the codes were relatively simple – “S” meant satisfactory, and “U” meant unsatisfactory. Now, however, there is a whole book of codes to express just about every aspect of school life.
My intent today is to decipher these codes for you. Sure, they would appear to be transparent on the surface, easy to understand. Many people don't realize though that these codes often have much deeper meanings, not always apparent to the untrained observer.
For example, the conduct code that states, "Needs improvement in completing assigned task," is generally taken to indicate that the student is not doing his/her homework or getting much finished during classwork. However, this code could also be a sign that little Jimmy is being sent down to the teacher’s lounge to obtain a refreshing beverage for the teacher but instead getting distracted by a fly on the wall in the hallway.
Another code that is often misinterpreted is, "Needs improvement in working independently." Generally taken to mean that the child cannot or will not do his or her work without talking, this is actually not the case. It's a little-known fact (to quote the great Cliff Claven) that this particular code is a carry over from the 1800s, when Texas had only recently been annexed from Mexico. Many students at the time still felt and acted as if they were under the control of Mexico, so teachers would stress the aspect of independence.
The code that states, "Needs improvement in writing legibly" is often vastly overcomplicated. Parents see this note and think that the teacher means that the student has poor handwriting. In actuality, the code means exactly what it says. The child has difficulty writing the word, "legibly." Several million adults have this problem as well, most probably due to the fact that "legibly" is not a frequently used word.
In the comments field for mathematics, one code that often appears is, "Needs improvement in recalling basic facts." It's true that this code can apply to children who have not learned their basic addition and subtraction. However, it can also refer to kids who cannot seem to remember their teacher’s name. I personally use it all the time on kids who call me, "Mr. Peterson," "Mr. Pierce," or "Mr. Pierceman.”
Unfortunately, in this limited forum, I have only had time to scratch the surface of da Teacher Code. There are nearly one hundred codes for us to choose from, each with its own complexity of meaning and various interpretations.
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John Pearson is a third-grade math and science teacher in Dallas, Texas. He has degrees in mechanical engineering from Duke University and Texas A&M, so most consider his math abilities adequate enough to teach nine-year olds. He is also the author of Learn Me Good (Lulu, 2006), a funny, fictionalized account of his first year in education. Read more at www.learnmegood.com